Electrospinning of poly (lactic) acid for biomedical applications: analysis of solution properties and process parameters, drug encapsulation and release
thesisposted on 25.10.2016, 11:56 by Raffaella Casasola
Electrospinning or electrostatic fibre spinning employs electrostatic force to draw fibres from a liquid, either a polymeric solution or a polymer melt in the form of a charged jet. The jet solidifies and is deposited on a collector in the form of a non-woven fibrous mat. Electrospun fibres have diameters between several nanometres to a few microns, which is one of the main advantages of the process, as materials at the nanoscale have shown great potential in a wide range of healthcare and energy applications. The initial selection of solvents to dissolve the polymer for production of electrospun defect-free nanofibres has generally been based on experience from similar polymer-solvent systems. The selection of a solvent is important to control the fibre surface morphology that would eventually determine the field of application for the electrospun nanofibrous structures. However, little attempt has been made to study the correlation between the solubility behaviour of the polymer in different solvents and the electrospinnability of the polymer solutions. From this perspective, the first part of this thesis focused on the selection of different solvents for the production of poly (lactic acid) (PLA) nanofibres. Solution properties were measured and the electrospun nanofibrous structures were analysed in terms of morphology and nanofibre diameter. Understanding the molecular interactions between polymer and solvents enables the correct solvent selection to ensure the desired nanofibrous structure. Solubility is not the only criterion for nanofibre formation from a polymer solution. Polymer concentration is one of the main factors affecting electrospinning. For this reason, a relationship between PLA concentration and nanofibre morphology was determined by solution property measurements. A three step systematic methodology has been proposed in this thesis in order to select appropriate solvent and polymer concentration for the production of homogeneous electrospun mats made of defect-free nanofibres. This methodology was validated for PLA nanofibres, but it can be used for a wide range of polymers. It simplifies the solvent selection process and can significantly improve the trial and error approaches used at present. Despite several models for electrospinning having been proposed to predict the behaviour of the electrospun jet, there are no simple methods for a priori prediction of the final morphology of the electrospun mat from the knowledge of solution properties and electrospinning process parameters. Moreover the prediction of nanofibre diameter is still a difficulty and little research has been done on this. For these reasons, the second part of this thesis is dedicated to understanding the effect of some process parameters on the jet electric current and hence on the morphology of PLA nanofibres. The values of current measured were used to verify an equation proposed in the literature for the prediction of the final diameter. The experimental diameter of the PLA nanofibres was compared with the predicted value. In the last chapter coaxial electrospinning was employed to produce PLA nanofibres with a core shell structure for the incorporation of a model hydrophilic drug in the nanofibre core. The large surface area to volume ratio of nanofibres offers the great advantage of higher efficiency of encapsulation and better control of the release profile compared with other drug delivery systems. Even though successful encapsulation of drug and proteins have been reported, it is not clear how to verify the continuous drug distribution in the core throughout the whole length of the fibre. The solution properties of both core and shell strongly affect the outcome of the electrospinning process. For this reason, several techniques have been used to verify the formation of a core shell structure and proper encapsulation of the drug. In addition, the efficiency of drug encapsulation was evaluated and drug release studies were performed.
- Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering
- Chemical Engineering